A Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on NC Highway 14 exploded at roughly 12:20 a.m. early Thursday morning, completely destroying the fast food restaurant's structure and broadcasting structural debris a quarter mile up the highway.
“I was driving by when it exploded,’’ said Ed McCain, manager of the local Papa John’s pizza delivery restaurant, who was heading home from a late shift. “It shook my car like you wouldn’t believe, but there were no flames,’’ said McCain, 38, who caught a $10 bill as it wafted over his Mitsubishi Outlander. “I was freaking out and I just pulled over in the Sheetz parking lot. I’m just happy to be alive.’’
Eden Police Chief Greg Light, who was at the scene with firefighters, said there are no casualties and no suspicion of foul play.
“We’ve called in the ATF from Greensboro and officials from the gas company are on the scene,’’ Light said.
Residents from as far away as Draper and Ridgeway, Va., reported feeling a quake at the time of the explosion. Randy East was sitting outside the Sheetz across the street when the building combusted.
“I took a sip out of my coffee and looked up and went to put my coffee down and it (coffee) blew up … and it come up, and you could see the roof opening up,’’ East said of the KFC that was left hollow with splintered lumber and roofing splayed in the ruins.
“We were talking to a guy who was supposed to be over there in the morning at 9:30 to show up for work, and it wasn’t four or five minutes later and I looked across there (road) and there was nothing pulled in or anything like that,’’ said East, who spent 20 years working in the natural gas industry.
“It wasn’t a bomb,’’ he said. “It was a gas explosion. It was one massive boom where the gas built up in a pocket.’’
“My trailer was just shaking,’’ said Joshua Harris of Eden, who was relaxing in his mobile home on Kennedy Street about one block away. “It was a big boom."
Spectators who flocked to the scene shortly after reported a strong smell of natural gas, though Light could not yet say whether the fuel had demolished the building.
One of Eden’s oldest restaurants, King’s Inn pizza parlor, sustained damage to its trademark stained glass window from the concussive force. Owners said the eatery will be up and running Thursday, despite the damage.
The 21-year-old made a chance stop at the Sheetz convenience store opposite KFC, when Jarrett realized his place of employment on North Van Buren Road was destroyed.
Currently, the north and south bound lanes of Van Buren Road / Highway 14 between Moore Street and Stadium Drive are closed.
This roadway will be closed for an extended period of time. Please avoid the area if possible.
Officials are early in their investigation and there are no further details at this time.